The Granular Performance and Colloquium was a great weekend full of music, noise, art and talks. Regretfully, I did not get a chance to see our keynote speaker Greg Hainge or any of the other speakers on Saturday morning, so this will only be a review of the performances.
That moment in the darkened TV studio, where all the seats were full, and after a short speech by David Waterworth, David Ryan raised his hands, the music started and the Granular event, that had been planned for so long, became. What followed was a weekend of talks and performances that all in some way, involved something becoming, changing and/or ceasing to be.
What became of David Ryan and Ensemble’s performance of Recitativo was a visual music piece filled with dramatic tension. In moments the dark, powerful lows of Joe Zeitllin’s cello thundered and mixed with the crisp, tense highs of William Crosby’s guitar, as Italian whispers of Cristina Grifone interweaved with the out of sync, English whispers of Kelcy Davenport. Expertly switching between moments of high volume and low volume, confused, whispered, overlapped speech and emphasised words. What resulted for me was a fragmented experience where I only caught bits of what each speaker was saying. The music was tense and dynamic and this combined with the visuals of Roman statues, and smoky, volcanic rocks produced an experience where the visuals matched the sounds, and became like another part of the orchestration. Overall a fantastic performance filled with tension and dynamics.
On Saturday after lunch, Rob Smith and Charles Danby’s performance started with a bowl of quicklime, with a cable inside, attached to a speaker that Rob carefully poured water over. What started to happen was the quicklime expanded and broke apart. Rob poured water over another bowl of quicklime that ignited and a video of the bowl was projected onto the side of the lecture theatre. As the quicklime burned you could hear the fizzing sound amplified by the speakers. Then the presentation of the paper began. Equally narrated by Rob and Charles, the paper focused on the working landscape of canals, quarries, tramways and kilns that serviced the lime industry of the rural Black Mountains which in turn fed the nations heavy industries that roared through South Wales. When these quarries are not used anymore they become heritage sites and serve a social function in the community. After the presentation of the paper had ended the quicklime continued to burn for another minute or so before burning out and thus ending the performance. Overall, a very good piece about change, history and heritage, with a unique way of presenting.
After Rob and Charles’ performance there was another performance of Recitativo in the TV studio. This time however, it was just a small part and featured David Ryan on clarinet, Ian Mitchell on bass clarinet, and Cristina Grifone and Kelcy Davenport on vocals. The booming sound of the bass clarinet was deeply satisfying to the ear and again the piece was filled with tension. Whispers in both Italian and English and words with emphasis, again created a fragmented experience of Lucretius and Negri’s writing. However, for me the stand out for this performance was Cristina Grifone’s vocal work. She never missed a note of the high range and her whole body moved as she dramatically embodied a kind of crying or prickling pain, in ahs and ahhhhs, like she was about to sneeze. A truly unique and fantastic performance.
The last performance of the day was Russell Duke. I had the privilege of speaking to Russell as he was setting up in the project space and he walked me through his set up. An EKG (what doctors use to check the heart’s electrical functioning) attached to a plant, which produced a boing noise when you flicked one of the leaves. A synth and a bunch of pedals and knobs and dials. Oh, and a few fidget spinners attached to a hat. And yes, these made noise.
Beginning loud and staying loud, Russell’s piece was like going to a rock concert in an art gallery. I enjoyed seeing how Russell’s manipulations of the instruments available to him interacted with each other and changed the course of the piece. With an improvised feel and a range of exciting methods of creating sound, Russell’s piece was noise at its finest.
As the event came to an end everyone had a drink and enjoyed the exhibition. It was very satisfying to see all the work of planning and organising come to fruition, in what was a successful event. Like the exhibition, each piece of work or performance seemed different but when put together they really complimented each other. Granularity was at the core of each and it was great to see artists and academics of different backgrounds, from far and wide, come together and explore these ideas together.
Review written by Wesley Sloan